Dennis Earnhart: “I’ve been delivered!”

IN PROCESS

by Major Glen DossIt was a beautiful day at the park.

The man, following casually behind a group of pedestrians, was glancing admiringly around at the scenery, cheerfully watching the ballgame in progress, when, suddenly, his face clouded with an expression of grave solemnity. Abruptly, he dropped to his knees and began sobbing with all his might.

“What’s wrong with this guy?” someone shouted as the crowd gathered around. “Are you okay?” called out another. Between sobs, the man, still on his knees, replied: “I’m fine–it’s okay.”

 



Capt. Dennis Earnhart


Dennis Earnhart, 36, was giving his heart to the Lord.

Reflecting on that epochal day in 1989 when, “after 13 years of steady drug use,” he checked into the Hospitality House in San Jose, Dennis remembers, “I was thinking, ‘Man! I’m sober! I’m feeling hope!’ But I was also feeling real empty, and, suddenly, I knew what was missing–it was the Lord! Right in front of all those people, I went to my knees and cried like I had never cried before! The crying was joyful! It was God taking hold of my life!”

The meandering path leading to his climactic encounter with God began, Dennis believes, with faulty perceptions of the Lord gleaned from his childhood. The second of three boys, he grew up in a family “very involved” with the Southern Baptist Church in San Jose. However, he recalls, “My early experience of God was one of fear, not a relationship. I don’t think I ever had a personal relationship with God.”

At 18 he took a job in a restaurant where his supervisors soon noticed that he had “a gift for management,” and he advanced rapidly. At age 22, however, he began smoking marijuana. Dennis soon found that he had “an addictive personality,” although for a while he could still function. Turning to real estate, he continued to excel professionally.

Then one day at a party he was offered cocaine. Asserts Dennis, “I became immediately addicted–I had to have more.” The effectiveness of his work now began to decline although he was “able to maintain,” he says, “until 1979 when real estate went down the tubes in San Jose.” At that point, “I really lost control! I lost my house, my vehicles. Soon I was out on the street!”

He eventually moved in with his family. By this time, however, “I had progressed to methamphetamines. My family saw me deteriorating right before their eyes.”

Dennis, now in and out of jail, was finally confronted by his family. His mother’s painful words still ring in his ears: “You know I love you very much, but I’m afraid of you. And you’re not going to quit drugs. I can’t do this anymore.”

Emotionally, Dennis adds, “She told me to get out.”

Once again homeless, he checked into the Hospitality House. Passing through the park a few days later, Dennis gave his heart to the Lord. Soon thereafter he checked into the San Jose ARC.

Continuing to attend chapel services after graduating, he was especially moved one day by a message on commitment delivered by the administrator, Major Oliver Stenvick. Dennis subsequently “felt God pursuing” him for officership. Confiding in Major Stenvick, he asked, “Why does God want me in ministry? Look at the wreckage of my past! What can God do with a man like me?” The major encouragingly prayed with him.

In September 1991, Dennis entered The Salvation Army’s School for Officer Training. Today he serves as administrator of the Long Beach ARC.

Reflects Dennis: “That day in the park when I was brought to my knees God made himself very real to me. I had never known him as a real person. Since then it has been–what does Chuck Swindoll say? — ‘Three steps forward and two steps back?’ It’s been like that. Yet I’m coming up on 14 years clean and sober! I’ve been freed! I’ve been delivered!”

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